Audiences Tuned Out News in 2021

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ARLINGTON, Va.—The Axios news site has pulled together an impressive amount of data about how consumers interacted with news content in 2021 (opens in new tab) and the results highlight major problems in the news business as it goes into 2022. Key trends include: social media interactions with news stories fell by 65% in 2021; primetime cable news viewers dropped by 36% at Fox News, CNN and MSNBC; news media app downloads slumped by 33% and visitors to news sites fell by 8% compared to 2020. 

“Given the ongoing decline in interest in news about COVID-19 and politics, it doesn't look like 2022 will be much better,” Axios reporters concluded. 

The analysis of data from NewsWhip, Apptopia, SimilarWeb and Nielsen by Axios also found that with “fewer singular storylines capturing America's collective attention, news consumption was more scattered and diverted to sports.”

An Associated Press report (opens in new tab) cited by Axios confirmed those conclusions. The AP reported that in “2021, weekday prime-time viewership dropped 38% at CNN, 34% at Fox News Channel and 25% at MSNBC,” and that “the decline was less steep but still significant at broadcast television evening newscasts” with ABC’s `World News Tonight’ and the `CBS Evening News’ down 12% and NBC’s “Nightly News,” down 14% the AP said citing Nielsen data. 

Axios also noted that app downloads for the top 12 mainstream publishers dropped 33%, according to data from Apptopi, with the biggest declines in the second half of the year. 

The AP reported that both the New York Times and the Washington Post saw significant declines, with “the number of unique visitors to the Post’s site was down 44% in November [2021] compared to November 2020, and down 34% at the Times,” according to Comscore data cited by AP.

In addition Axios reported that “website visits for the top-performing news websites in the U.S. tracked by Similarweb in the first 11 months of 2021 dropped 8%” but “traffic to hyper-partisan and political publishers took a severe hit in 2021, while mainstream news publishers did better.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.